Shopping the New Rochelle Farmers Market

A little birdie told us it was better - so we checked it out.

July 29, 2016

By Michelle Gillan Larkin

I like to go outside my comfort zone every now and then, and that includes visiting a farmers market that is not “my own.” Sounds simple enough, but for this creature of habit, it’s a stretch (and feels a little like cheating). So, with hubby and six-year-old at my side, I stopped by the New Rochelle Grand Market on a recent Saturday morning.


The first thing I noticed was this market was not as big as my usual, but the intimate setup on a grassy square seemed to beckon “c’mon in, it’s cozy here.” The vendors had warm, friendly smiles for us and each other, and good foodie cheer abounded.

My nose picked up the scent of something baked so we made a beeline for the stand offering Middle Eastern delights. We gobbled a batch of homemade bourekas, which are these melt-in-your-mouth triangles of puff pastry stuffed with spinach and feta. We planned on bringing a bagful home; they never even made it to the car.


We were about to check out the artisanal cheeses and organic maple syrup when my son noticed a life-sized chess board on the green behind us, along with a towering game of Connect Four. He was off like a shot, followed by my kid-at-heart husband, leaving me to peruse the rest of the market by myself and at my own pace (score!).

I decided to peek at the produce to see how it would stack up against the fresh fruits and veggies I’m accustomed to. I picked a nice bunch of kale for $2, just like usual, and some really red strawberries. I couldn’t find my crisp butter lettuce, but did gather up three honking bulbs of the freshest smelling garlic ever.


I then discovered two things that stopped me in my tracks — a bountiful basket of eggs from heritage French guinea hens, and hard apple cider. I made a mad dash for, yep, the “juice,” figuring I’d let my little guy pick our eggs. I forced myself to try all three varietals, but my favorite was the one infused with lavender. They said it would have a calming effect, and indeed I felt very sedate, albeit quite bubbly.

I hiccuped and called for my son, who was now involved in a bean bag toss with a new friend. He tore himself away upon learning he’d get to choose the eggs we’d have for Sunday breakfast. He did a great job, as these turned out to be the richest-tasting scramblers I’ve ever eaten.

We didn’t have time to linger for the live music, so we grabbed a handful of cookies made with whole wheat flour while bidding farewell to this intimate, yet abundant farmers market. I left feeling particularly pleased with myself for stretching my soul even further than my stomach.

New Rochelle Grand Market, Library Green, 1 Library Plaza,  New Rochelle; Saturdays, 9am to 2pm

Three years ago, the New York Times‘s Style section shined the spotlight on Hastings, the Rivertown where a unique kind of “Hipsturbia” was unfolding. Those cooler-than-thou families from the Slope and the Heights were moving there in droves, and as such, reinventing it into a little slice of yuppie Brooklyn — indie shops, yoga studios and coffeehouses and all. (Hey, if it’s true, I kinda want to live there, too.)


Recently, a new Westchester neighborhood was designated the cool place to live by the Times: Pelham. I’ve always been a fan of this Sound Shore village since my cousins grew up there, and the housing stock is one of the most charming in the county. Just look at this sprawling charmer listed at just over a million. In a recent story, Times writer Lisa Provost outlines the insane bidding wars taking place there, since houses are often selling for 15 to 20 percent higher than listing price. One real estate agent quoted in the story says most of his buyers are from Brooklyn, where they’re being priced out of homes in desirable neighborhoods.

Here’s the good news: The same thing is happening in several other Westchester towns. Take this quote from the story: “Across Westchester, northern New Jersey, parts of Long Island and lower Fairfield County, Conn., the competition is fiercest for move-in-ready homes toward the lower end of the price scale — under $1 million in some markets, under $2 million in others — in places within a 40-minute rail commute to the city. Walking distance to a lively downtown, a train station or both heightens the appeal.”

That includes places like Scarsdale, Irvington, Dobbs, Larchmont, White Plains, among others. So maybe it’s not just Pelham that’s getting the Brooklyn treatment. Hold on to your houses, folks, because here they come! And to our new Brooklyn readers, welcome! You’re going to love it up here. :)

For me, summer = eating lobster, lots of it. It’s what I look forward to on vacation, and I try to get as much of it as I can around town, too. I don’t, however, love paying the “market price” on a lobster meal. Sometimes it seems downright ridiculous. To wit, a lobster roll costs $28 at Red Hat in Irvington, the lobster salad at Eastchester Fish Gourmet is $31, the lobster boil at Purdy’s Farmer and Fish in Salem costs $32, and a 1.5-pound steamed lobster at Port Chester’s Saltaire is $39. That having been said, here’s where you can find the best lobster deal in town…

stew leonard's lobster meal

Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers! Seriously. It may not be the nicest dining experience, since you’ll be eating at a sticky picnic table in the outdoor food area, with the Stew’s jingle blaring in the background. But Stew’s is serving up a freshly steamed 1-pound lobster, corn on the cob, fries and a drink — the exact meal pictured above — for just $18. This deal isn’t advertised on the regular menu, but it does run all summer long and into the early fall, until 7pm each day. Just ask the cashier for the lobster meal. We’ve been taking advantage of it since we first moved to Westchester more than 10 years ago. (Back then, it was only $12!)

What’s more, Stew’s lobster rolls are also pretty good when you need a lobster fix. Elizabeth recently told me that they’re actually her favorite lobster rolls around, and I have to agree. They taste fresh and delicious, and for the price ($8 a roll), they really can’t be beat!

Stew Leonard’s, 1 Stew Leonard Drive, Yonkers; 914-375-4700

3 Biggest Mistakes I’ve Made as a Mom

Some simple lessons, from me to you.

July 22, 2016

Note: This post originally ran in the past, but it was so popular we decided to bring it back as an oldie but goody!

We all make mistakes as a mom. It’s part of the job. We learn as we go. But if I could go back and tell myself a few things about raising an infant, then toddler, and now preschooler, I would say the following: Take a deep breath! You’re not f*ing your kid up on a daily basis.


No, but for real. This is what I’d say are a few of my biggest mom mistakes.

You do not need to play with your child all day long.
Honestly, I didn’t realize this until I was interviewing several child psychologists and pediatricians while reporting a story for Parents Magazine: You shouldn’t be your kid’s entertainer. It’s important for kids to learn how to occupy themselves, and studies show that kids actually learn less when you try to teach them how to do things. (Fascinating, right?)

This isn’t to say you should dump your kid in the playroom all day and watch soaps. Hardly. Your children thrive off of one on one attention, and working moms know it’s quality not quantity of time that matters most. But it’s also healthy for you to flip through Vogue while your son builds Legos. After playing princess with your little girl, why not let her play alone while you do yoga nearby? It’s important for kids to learn how to take initiative and self direct their play. As one pediatrician told me, young children need at least three 20 minute periods of free play, preferably more, each day. Play is how they learn about the world, emotions and relationships.

Do not feel guilty about taking time for yourself.
Am I the only one who feels badly when I leave my child with a babysitter to get a pedicure or go out to lunch with a girlfriend? I tend to think that if I hire a babysitter, I should be working or running household errands, almost like I need to “earn” my time away. Ridiculous.

Time away from your kids makes you a better mom. Plain and simple. If you have time to recharge and glimpse who you were before kids (even though you love your post-kid life), you just feel more human. You need that.

Don’t feel guilty like me. Just do it. (I’ll admit that I’m still working on this.)

Don’t you dare use nap time to clean.
I once interviewed a time management expert for a parenting story, and she gave me the best piece of mom-to-mom advice: “Don’t do anything during nap time that you can do while your children are awake.” Dirty dishes. Do those while your daughter toddles around. Dinner? Involve your son in the planning. Instead, take nap time to do something for you: exercise, read a book, catch up on an episode of Homeland. Sit in the sun and close your eyes. Nap time is your time, not chore time.

What is your biggest mom mistake? Please share. It will make us all feel better. 

Scattered Thoughts at Scattered Books

Chappaqua's Independent bookshop is full of titles -- and charm.

July 20, 2016

I met my husband for lunch in Chappaqua yesterday, but I arrived a few minutes early and ducked into Scattered Books, a newish bookshop in the village. As a writer, I’ve made it a personal goal to try and keep independent book shops in business, and my son and I frequent all of the ones in Westchester. (And many in the city, too; Community Bookstore in Park Slope with its sleeping cat is a favorite of ours, as is Books of Wonder in Union Square. And the children’s section at the Strand is Off. The. Hook.)


Locally, there are gems, too. Womrath Books in Bronxville has several well-stocked shelves for boys and girls who love superheroes and robots and picture books with just the right amount of adventure. Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont is chock full of easy readers (and toys!), while children’s bookshop The Voracious Reader, just down the street, has a well-curated selection of books for children young to middle grade. Arcade Booksellers in Rye is stuffed to the gills with books, but it’s a bit hard to browse through, thanks to its towering shelves, while the Village Bookshop in Pleasantville, my personal favorite, has the best selection of fiction and current events in the region. But that one is for the grown-ups.; the children’s section is sweet but small.


Scattered Books is small, too, but it has a well-curated collection to keep you browsing. Think: New York Times bestsellers, a table of beach reads, a cupboard of artfully-arranged cookbooks. Plus, it’s so darn cute inside that it will lure you back with a latte. There are cushioned benches lining the windowed front if you want to sit and peruse a book.  And I was greeted with a warm smile as soon as I stepped in. “Are you looking for something in particular?” Gosh, I love a bookshop run by people who really love books.


A small children’s section has a train table with toys and rows of picture books. There are regular children’s events, so check the calendar. On Tuesdays in July, there’s a story time at 11am where kids can read with a real life rabbit. So here’s an idea: On the next balmy day, plan an outing to one of Westchester’s indie bookshops and let the kids pick a special book. They’ll know as soon as they walk in. They’re in a special place.

Scattered Books, 29 King Street, Chappaqua

Sponsored Post: GetaRoom Tile Opens in Armonk

Your destination for unique and beautiful tiles and home furnishings.

July 19, 2016

Laura Michaels originally opened GetARoom Design in Armonk two years ago as a full-service interior design studio. Michaels designs custom furniture, lighting, cabinetry, kitchens and baths, and tile. Her studio recently expanded, adding a boutique tile showroom due to the overwhelming demand for unique and beautiful tiles.


As a former fashion designer, Michaels’ goal is to highlight the best of the best in the tile industry, and she sources unique — yet totally customizable — tiles that will set the interior design element of your home apart from others. Of course she carries the basics, as well. Featuring kitchen and bath studios, GetaRoom Design should be your next stop in creating your dream home.


The image above is an example of Michaels’ gorgeous creations. Brass rods were inserted between tiles for a unique layout.


Pictured above is an industrial wood planking made with porcelain cut on an age to create a faux wood look.


Above, Michaels’ tile installers methodically worked off a tile diagram to pre-layout a backsplash and ensure 100 percent accuracy. The tile is meant to look like metal studs, but is actually inexpensive porcelain tiles in several sizes and colors.


Here is an example of the custom cabinetry you’ll find at GetaRoom design. When completed, Michaels inserted python into the insets of the cabinet doors.


This is a custom twin daybed that Michaels has also done in full and queen sizes. For more examples of her beautiful work, visit Michaels’ website or showroom in Armonk.

GetaRoom Tile & Design, 480 Main Street, Armonk 

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We’re planning a camping trip in the Catskills this weekend, and while we’ll definitely be bringing along plenty of DVDs for the drive, I also wanted to give the kids entertainment options that didn’t involve staring at a screen. Audio books seemed like the way to go, and I like the idea of us having a sort of family book club meeting in the car afterwards.

audio books for road trips

I asked my friend Teresa Chang, children’s librarian at Eastchester Public Library, for her favorites. Here’s the list she gave me, broken down by age group. With a library card from any branch in Westchester, you can request for any of these books to be delivered to your local library for free through the Westchester Library System.

(These are audio kits that include the picture book as well.)
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin

Kindergarten to 2nd Grade
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Half Magic by Edward Eager
Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin

3rd to 5th Grades
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
The BFG by Roald Dahl

Is Mooyah the Better Burger?

The burger chain opens in Larchmont and Briarcliff.

July 15, 2016

By Michelle Gillan Larkin

We had just run ourselves silly at the park when my 5-year old stopped short at the sandbox and announced in his big boy voice: “I’m starving, and I want to eat NOW.” So I replied in my most motherly tone: “Let’s get a Mooyah burger!” (I’d been dying for an excuse to try one, and poor baby was hungry!)


Before any whining could commence, I got us to the counter at the Briarcliff location where we placed our “better burger” order. Lately, I’m all about the “better burger” joint — a temptation-laden place where fast food and fine dining come together in a tasty tango of high quality, affordable eatin’. It’s a tad pricier than your typical fast food chain, but well beneath the cost of a meal on a white table cloth. Such establishments (think Five Guys and Shake Shack) are popping up all over the place; there are 80 Mooyah locations across the globe, but this is the first one in New York (the Larchmont spot opened second). The draw at Mooyah: The burgers are 100-percent beef, never frozen, and the buns — artisan white or multigrain wheat — are baked fresh on premises.

On the down side, it took 15 minutes to get our food, but at least at the Briarcliff location, we had a table outside where we could play “count the red cars, now the blue ones” that drove past us in the parking lot. Our order was delivered to us: Kids cheeseburger for the boy, complete with fries and milk, and a big girl cheddar burger for me. There were toppings galore, but I went for the “Mooyah style” loaded with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickles, and Mooyah sauce (which was pretty much identical to that other special sauce — yeah, you know the one).

We made fast work of our dinner, but it wasn’t mere hunger driving us — the burgers were really yummy, albeit a little on the thin side. I wouldn’t call them juicy, but the meat was tender and fresh. There’s also a turkey burger option, and I was excited to see a vegetarian black bean burger on the menu, but pretty crushed to find out it was out of a box and not freshly made.

The fries at Mooyah — regular or sweet potato — are hand-cut and not too salty, and the shakes are super creamy. Calorie counters will be happy to see a couple of salads on the big board, and the ability to substitute the bun for two giant pieces of lettuce, aptly called the “Iceburger.”

My little guy and I left Mooyah happy and satisfied, and ready for bedtime.

Mooyah, 1882 Pleasantville Road, Briarcliff Manor; and 1943 Palmer Avenue, Larchmont

Planning a (Slow) Summer Day

We're always on the go. But sometimes, it's important to simply stop.

July 13, 2016

“What are we going to do today?” I ask my 6-year-old son, Harper, the other morning. He shrugs, flipping through a Pokemon book. He’s in pajamas. It’s 10:30am, long past the acceptable time to be wearing Batman-themed PJs on a Wednesday, but it’s summer and the rules are different. If it was up to Harper, we’d huddle inside all day and vacillate between the art table and his toy chest of action figures. But it’s gorgeous, and I want out.


“Let’s draw,” he tells me. So here’s the moment where I can say no, hurry him upstairs to get dressed and rush into the car to speed off to an exciting locale: the beach, the zoo, a spray park, a book store. But after a year of shuffling him along to school in the mornings, I want his summer to feel slow. So I relent. We sit at the counter and draw.

I’m a bit sneaky though and start to talk about what we should do that day anyway. I say I’d like to go to the beach and grab lunch at a local gourmet market. He wants to draw pictures of giant squid. And then he wants to draw more pictures of giant squid. (If my 18-month-old baby girl, Emerson, could talk, she’d say she wants to stand on chairs every time mommy turns her back.)

I scribble what we want to do down on a piece of paper and show it to him. I even draw little boxes next to each thing we want to do, so we can check them off as we go. I tell him in my mommy voice: We’ll spend another fifteen minutes or so drawing, then we’ll get dressed. We’ll walk our dog, then pack lunch and hit the beach.

And we do that. We get dressed, walk the dog, and as I’m packing up the beach bag, I notice my son has taken a few books out in the backyard. He’s reading with bare feet in the grass, having kicked off his flip-flops. He doesn’t look up to notice the blue jay on the fence. He’s simply turning pages.

And that’s when I think: We can always go to the beach. Instead, I grab a picnic blanket and lay it in the grass. I grab the baby, and all of us sit there together and read.

A Greenwich Beach Day

Pack up the sand toys. The beach is closer than you think.

July 12, 2016

Note: This post first ran in the past, but it was so popular that we’ve updated it and brought it back as an oldie but goody!

Part of the reason I moved to Westchester from NYC was the water. I was tired of having to schlep out of the city to dig my toes into the sand and go for a swim. Lucky for us Westchester folks, we can take a dip in the Hudson — or head to one the region’s many beaches in Mamaroneck or Rye. (If you’re lucky enough to snag a spot at the oh-so-private Larchmont Manor Park Society’s Manor Beach, then you’ve got it made.) But for the rest of us, the nicest public beach is actually in Greenwich, Connecticut.


Our friends in Greenwich took us to Greenwich Point Park for the first time in the spring. We were wowed by the Hamptons-like beach houses on Shore Road along the way, but it was the long sandy stretches that thrilled us. After driving over a one-lane bridge built of riverstone, we found ourselves on a peninsula surrounded by the calm waters of the Long Island Sound. The beach itself is expansive, even if the sand is soft in parts, pebbly in others.


Still, we’ve gone several times this summer. Swimming is perfect for young children since the water gets deep gradually, and there are lifeguards on duty.

At low tide, the beach is transformed to a wide-open playground, and the children take over the expanse with pails and shovels. Set up your lounge chair in the wet sand, and let your little one roam, or at least let him or her feel like she can.

But wait! Before you pack up your beach bag, here’s what you need to know:


Where to Get Beach Passes
While Greenwich Point Park is a public beach, Greenwich makes it a teeny bit hard for outsiders to get in. You’ll have to stop at the Civic Center (90 Harding Road) in Old Greenwich to pick up a beach and parking pass first, otherwise the beach attendants will turn you away. (Note that the Civic Center is only open on weekdays, from 9am to 6pm.) The cost is $35 per vehicle and $7 per person ages 5 to 64.

Keep Your Eye on the Tide and the Horseshoe Crabs
The absolute best time to come to Greenwich Beach is at low tide. The beach is wide and space is plentiful. But the tide comes up quickly, and your blankets can easily get soaked if you don’t keep  your eyes on the water. It’s best to claim a spot above the high-tide mark — where the beach slopes up a bit and there’s a row of seaweed and shells — while it’s still low tide. Then, when the tide comes up, you’ll have a spot secured on the sand, where people will suddenly be packed in like sardines.

When the tide comes up, it’s often easy to spot horseshoe crabs at the shoreline. The kids love touching their backs or picking them up by their tails. While these crabs won’t hurt you, be sure and respect that they’re living things and should be treated with care.

Don’t Pack Lunch!
There are two concession stands located at opposite ends of the main parking lot, and the food is actually pretty good. They sell standard beach fare, like grilled cheese, pizza, chicken tenders and fries. But they also have grilled chicken on a garden salad or pasta salad and smoothies. Don’t hit the concession without picking up a basket of onion rings. As a junk food lover, I can vouch for their twice-fried yumminess. Lunch for two adults and one child never costs more than $20.

Go For a Walk
If you need a break from the sun, the park has numerous nature trails that lead through the woods and along the craggy shoreline. I highly recommend the stretch nearest to the second concession stand, at the parking lot farthest from the entry gate. Pass by the concession and follow the sandy path south to a windy walk along the Sound.

There are bathrooms at the concession stand along with changing rooms and showers. They’re well-kept and tidy. When changing a messy diaper, I head to the grass under the shaded trees.

Greenwich Point Park is located at Tod’s Driftway at the end of Shore Road. It’s open from dawn to dusk daily. A lifeguard is on duty through Labor Day from 10am to 6pm. For details about the park, see the town’s information page

Lunch and a Show at Alamo Drafthouse

The movie theater chain debuts a new kids’ menu.

July 11, 2016

What’s better than spending a scorching summer day in an air-conditioned theater, taking in the latest Pixar movie with the kids? Feeding them lunch at the same time. That’s what we did on a recent afternoon at the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Yonkers, which has always offered a full menu for dining in while you watch your movie — there’s a counter opposite each row of seats on which to place your food, and waiters stealthily make their way through the aisles to take your orders and refresh your drinks.

Interior architecture photography by austin photographer david hill

Last month, Alamo started offering a kids’ menu, too, and they invited us down to try it out. For $8 you get a main (chicken fingers for my son, cheese quesadilla for my daughter), a side (both wanted fries, but there are also healthier options like yogurt and carrot sticks), and a treat (choose between three kinds of cookies or two kinds of candy). There are some interesting a la carte items, too, like pasta bakes and smoothies. My kids ate everything on their trays and also polished off a kid-size popcorn while Dory kept them entertained on the big screen. Easiest meal ever.

In addition to recent releases, Alamo is also offering family-friendly movies for a $1 to $3 donation price this whole summer; 100 percent of ticket sales go to the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and SPCA of Westchester. Upcoming screenings include Shaun the Sheep, Charlie and Chocolate Factory, The Lego Movie and more. These movies are meant for children ages 3 and up. For infants and toddlers, Alamo offers “Baby Day” matinees every Tuesday. We love the idea of parents bringing their babies along while they take in a movie and have written about the experience in the past!

Alamo Drafthouse, 2548 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers; 914-226-3082

Calendar! Calendar! Calendar!

Don't miss our newly-updated listing of events.

July 7, 2016

We’ve been paying more attention to our calendar lately. And that means one thing: Your weekends just got better. Scroll through for dozens of event listings, everything from weekday library story times to what’s doing at night for kids at Caramoor Center for the Arts. To access the extensive calendar listings, click here. You’re welcome. :)

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Sponsored Post: Great Things Are Happening at Bright Horizons

July 6, 2016

Great things are happening at Bright Horizons and now is your chance to see for yourself! Next week, open houses will be held at both the Yonkers and Armonk locations so you can see first-hand what all the talk is about. On Monday, July 11, and Tuesday, July 12, stop in from 8am to 6pm at Bright […]

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DIY Craft: Homemade Activity Books

July 5, 2016

Summer is here, and you know what that means: stocking up on activity books and art supplies for any upcoming road trips or plane rides. But instead of adding to your tired collection of half-done activity books and broken crayons, here’s an idea I got from Pinterest. Make your own activity book! The whole idea is to […]

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Sponsored Post: Ridge Hill Summer Concerts & Films

July 4, 2016

It’s officially summer, and Ridge Hill is your entertainment destination with a calendar full of FREE outdoor concerts and films! Beginning with their Third Annual Movie Mondays series on July 11th, bring your chairs and blankets to enjoy family-friendly films on the lawn in Town Square. Pre-film activities begin at 7PM, with the films beginning at sunset. Looking […]

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Sponsored Post: Summer Super Foods!

July 1, 2016

This post was brought to you by Scarsdale Medical Group. Diane May, a registered dietician with Scarsdale Medical Group, is a huge proponent of eating seasonally and locally. Here she shares which super foods you should grab this summer at your local market. Summer happens to be one of the yummiest seasons for fresh produce, and these super foods will […]

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